Ayutthaya is the former capital of Thailand when it was the kingdom of Siam, from 1350 it was a prosperous city and international trading port, until it was destroyed in the 18th century by the Burmese. It is located approximately 50 miles north of Thailand’s capital – Bangkok.
This once important city of global diplomacy and commerce, is now an archaeological ruin and now forms a large UNESCO world heritage site. The area of Ayutthaya is vast and is a huge archaeological site full of ruins, temples and buildings.
You could easily spend a few days exploring this former capitals ruins and the surrounding area. However anyone who is limited on time then there are plenty of options of day tours or you can get to Ayutthaya easy enough from Bangkok. It is a long day on the tour probably about twelve hours in total but so worth it!
We honestly loved Ayutthaya and seeing such an interesting historical site was just amazing, and would really recommend venturing out of Bangkok for the day to visit the many sites and excavations.
Sights & Activities
Bang Pa-In Royal Palace
Entrance Fee: 100 THB / or included in price of tour
Bang Pa-In Royal Palace is also referred to as the summer palace, and is just 20 minutes from Ayutthaya and located along the Chao Phraya River. It was constructed in 1632, but fell into disuse during the late 18th century, until King Mongkut began to renovate the grounds back in the mid 19th century. Although the palace is full of Thai style acrhitecture there is also some European influence shown in several of the buildings around the palace as well as several statues and sculptures dotted around the area, these were added in during the restoration, which were inspired by palaces from England and France.
The palace is spread out over a huge area and features small canals that run through the grounds to the river. The gardens of the palace are full of grassy lawns, water features and beautiful ornate buildings. Today the palace isn’t really used by the royal family and they only really use the palace for special occassions and royal banquets. The palace is immaculately kept and is a tranquil and peaceful place to visit, even though its a tourist attraction many tourists seem to skip the palace and just visit the archaeological ruins in Ayutthaya, however a lot of tours from Bangkok include the palace as an add on. We paid a little bit more for our tour and we stopped off at the palace before returning back to Bangkok.
You can also reach the palace easy enough by train from Bangkok if you didn’t want to opt for a tour. Honestly though when visiting Ayutthaya I would recommend a visit to the palace preferably at the end of the day as its a great place to wind down after a day of sightseeing.
Chedi Phukhao Thong
Chedi Phukhao Thong is surrounded by rice paddies and just outside of Ayutthaya in a small village, the temple was established back in 1387 and over the centuries with various invasions the temple changed hands several times, and so parts of the buildings were added to and modified. Today as the structure stands it incorparates both Thai and Burmese styles, you can climb half way up the stupa which provides views over the surrounding areas.
This temple is much quieter in comparison to many of the ruins in and around Ayutthaya. Since we visited the Chedi Phukhao Thong it has under gone some restoration work, so looks drastically different to when we visted, as it has been freshly painted white and renovated to perfection to give you a glimpse of what it would have looked like hundreds of years ago. This was our first stop on our tour as it is slightly out the way, thats what makes the place a good place to visit as its not overrun with tourists.
Wat Lokaya Sutha
Wat Lokaya Sutha translates to Temple of the Earth, the temple and monastery are one of the main sites of Ayutthaya. One of the highlights of these temples ruins is the 42 meter long reclining Buddha which is still in fairly good condition. There isnt much known about the temple and monastery but as its in close proximity to the Royal Palace ruins it is thought the temple would have held some form of importance.
Its founding date is also unknown but is believed to date back to the very early days of Ayutthaya. As well as the large recling buddha the site has plenty of other archeological ruins to see such as ruins of assembly halls, chedis (Thai stupa) and prangs (Buddhist spires/towers). Wat Lokaya Sutha is a must when in Ayutthaya as its crazy to see how many ruins there are dotted around this one area, the site is free to enter and most tours will stop here too. The site is also close by to other major historical locations such as Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.
Entrance Fee: 50 THB / or included in price of tour
Wat Mahathat￼ is one of the most important temples of the Ayutthaya kingdom, the name translates to The Temple of the Great Relic. This large royal monastery and temple was once the centre of buddhism in Ayutthaya, and was located close to the palace. The site was created back in 1374 and the site has many features and intricate details. The temple stood in this site for about 500 years before the invasion of the Burmese which saw much of Ayutthaya destroyed and turned to rubble. Today the ruins are all that stands but some are more preserved than others. It has a similar ruins to that of Angkor in Cambodia, many of the ruins are out in the open and the grounds are absolutley beautiful with so much to see and explore.
The main image associated with this well known site is the Buddha face entwined in the roots of a banyan tree. You cannot visit Ayutthaya without visiting Wat Mahathat its an absolute must, and was by far our favourite area to explore, the temple were incredible. I would imagine most if not all tours stop here as its one of the most recognised sites of the ancient capital.
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet & The Royal Palace (Wang Luang)
Entrance Fee: 50 THB / or included in price of tour
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is another major site in the ancient capital and is most famous for its distinct pagodas which appear on many of the photos of the old city, and are an iconic image for Ayutthaya. The temple was constructed back in 1448 by King Borommatrailokanat who ordered the construction of the temple for his own personal use. The temple was also used for royal ceremonies. The pagodas were constructed after the death of the king to hold his remains and various other kings of Ayutthaya. Over the years smaller chedis were added to the site to hold the ashes of other members of the royal family.
There was a large 16 meter high gold buddha which stood on the site, but when the Burmese invaded in 1767 all the gold and valuables were taken, when Bangkok was identified as the new capital city of Thailand in 1782, the king arranged what was left of the Buddha to be moved to the Wat Pho which is a famous temple and tourist attraction in Bangkok.
Ayutthaya was founded back in 1350 and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet sits on the original site of the wooden palace, a new palace was built a little later just north of the temple, and was adapted and expanded over the years by the various kings. Today nothing much is left from the Royal Palace (Wang Luang) just a grassy area which has some outlines of some of the old walls of the palace. If you go to Ayutthaya’s historical centre there is a display of what it would have looked like. Close by is also Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit which is an active temple that houses one of Thailand’s largest bronze Buddha images, when visiting Wat Phra Sri Sanphet make a stop there too, as both can easily be visited in the same morning or afternoon.
Transport & Getting Around
Most people tend to visit Ayutthaya from Bangkok on a day trip, however some people spend a night or two there and explore, depending on how much time you have I would recommend booking onto a day tour from Bangkok as it’s really straight forward to do! We booked our tour through our hotel it cost us about £35 per person and included pick up and drop off in Bangkok, and all the entrance fees into the various sites and lunch. We had plenty of free time to explore on our own and as we got driven to each place we didn’t have the hassle of having to get from one place to another.
However if you are on a budget there are trains that run from Mo Chit Station in Bangkok and takes about 90 minutes by train to reach Ayutthaya, there are also buses available too, and once there you can explore many of the sites by foot or there are several places to hire a bicycle and bike around. If the hot weather is too much for you, you could also flag down a taxi or tuk tuk to take you between each of the sites once in the city.
You can also get a taxi to Ayutthaya from Bangkok however it isn’t much cheaper than taking a tour and you won’t get the entrance fees and lunch included so by the time you pay out for everything else it works out about the same cost as one of the tours.
Many of the sights in Ayutthaya are outside and exposed so make sure to wear light and comfortable clothing, but also clothing that covers your shoulders and knees as many of the sights are temples so dress modestly. Take plenty of sun cream, a hat and sunglasses to help with the midday heat and plenty of drinking water.
There are still elephants available for tourist rides in Ayutthaya, please avoid this at all costs! The elephants have to endure a process called Phajaan also known as the crush, where they take baby elephants and brutally torture them for days and weeks at time to break the elephants spirit, so that they can be controlled by humans. It’s a really traumatic practice and unfortunately until tourists realise what actually happens to make these elephants allow people to ride on them the practise will continue. I personally have ridden on elephants in the past before I knew what they went through, and now personally I would never ride on one again as it’s truly heartbreaking what they must under go.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful, if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx